Every third woman in Russia suffers from violence on the part of men. The probability for a Russian woman to be killed by her partner is 2.5 times higher than that of an American woman and 5 times higher than of a female resident of Western Europe. Those who wish to escape from the vicious circle of humiliations and beatings, may go to crisis centers.
The employees of those centers are the people who know if not nothing, then nearly everything about the causes of family violence. Such centers may help the women, who decide that they have to do something about their lives, even though they can not do it alone.
Anastasia Ermolaeva works in the crisis center for women in Russia's Nizhny Novgorod. The center does not work as a shelter for victims of domestic violence. However, it does provide all other forms of assistance.
"The first stage is a call to the trust line. At first, we provide psychological support. Afterwards, we can invite a woman for a meeting with a psychologist or a lawyer. Specialists will thus be able to elaborate the plan of actions to solve the situation. If necessary, a lawyer may help a woman at court. Some women attend support groups for other victims of violence. The center also provides social help - clothes, food and medications to victims and their children.
"As a rule, support groups consist of 10-12 women, who suffer from constant humiliations and beatings in their families. Experienced psychologies teach women how to live and survive under such conditions. Psychologists try to awaken the feeling of self-respect in such women.
"The goal of the employees is to arm women with information, legal information, first and foremost. They raise their self-esteem and try to make women believe in themselves. Their husbands tell them that they are nothing, zero, that they will not be able to live alone, etc. Women remain under the influence of this male power financially, morally and physically. They gradually lose self-confidence, become lonesome and helpless. They become certain that no one will ever be able to help them. It is extremely important to take them out of this condition."
When asked what makes women tolerate such attitude from their own husbands, Ermolaeva answered: "For them, this life does not seem tragic."
According to Anastasia, victims of domestic violence suffer from psychological traumas since early childhood. If a girl grows up in a family where she regularly witnesses constant fights between her parents, she does not see anything unusual about a man beating a woman. Moreover, many women subconsciously look for male partners who would behave exactly like that.
"Violence does not imply physical violence only. Physical violence is usually a high point. Before that, women suffer from psychological, economic and sexual violence," Anastasia said.
As for the women, who ask for help, they, as a rule, push the matter through. Revealing a problem and sharing it with others is already a big step to make. There are some women who may call, weep in the phone and then stop the struggle which has not been started. "Such women fear condemnation. It seems to them that it is shameful and incorrect, so they prefer to live their habitual lives," Ermolaeva said.
Domestic violence is not a feature of solely low layers of the population. "As a matter of fact, everything that is connected with violence takes place in all layers of the society. It does not depend on either religion or income. We have people representing the lowest levels of the population and the people from the so-called middle classes. The wives of high-ranking individuals rarely ask for help. They are very ashamed."
Albina Kovalchuk supervises the full time department of "Salvation" center in Khimki, the Moscow region. In spite of the fact that "Salvation" is a crisis center for women, it offers its help for everyone. Unlike the above-mentioned center in Nizhny Novgorod, "Salvation" has a stationary facility which accepts nearly 40 people a year.
"If we have a client, our employees find out which problem the woman has. If the woman says that she needs a psychologist, we make her an appointment. We always try to help, no matter what kind of problem people may have - loneliness, ageing, child-parent problems, etc. - we are always ready to help. If a client needs the stationary facility, she may live there from two weeks to three months. They live there freely, they lead their common lives, have people coming to visit them," Albina said.
Men also come to "Salvation," although the percentage of such addresses is a lot lower: 10 men per 120-150 women.
"Men express their aggression the way they can. Unfortunately, men can not have different reactions. However, it is women who choose such partners for themselves. A woman chooses such partner and she wants him like that. She leaves one husband, but then finds a similar partner again. It will never stop until the woman finds strength to change herself," Albina Kovalchuk said.
More than 3,500 people were detained during unprecedented mass protests that swept across all of Russia in support of Alexey Navalny on January 23